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Jon Culley at North Marine Road
July 19, 2014
Yorkshire 211 for 6 (Lyth 117) v Middlesex
In the interests of their title challenge, the last thing Yorkshire want is to have the England selectors asking too many questions about Adam Lyth but it may be difficult to keep them off the scent given his consistent excellence this season.
Five first-class hundreds, four in the Championship; 1,134 first-class runs, 1,004 in the Championship (the first to do so in Division One): the numbers are impressive, as is the way in which he is making them, with an enhanced sense of care and responsibility.
Already deprived of three players - Joe Root, Gary Ballance and Liam Plunkett - even with Jonny Bairstow and Tim Bresnan out of favour, you would imagine Andrew Gale might want to play down the credentials of another but the Yorkshire captain is inclined to do the opposite. After Lyth's 230 against Northamptonshire at the beginning of June, he boldly claimed that "compared with all the Yorkshire lads who have played for England recently, he has the most ability."
The selectors do not appear yet to be quite so keen. Since his 1,500 runs in the 2010 season earned him a trip to the Caribbean with an England Lions side managed by the recently appointed England selector Mick Newell he has not had a look-on. This is his best year subsequently - it may turn out even better - and there is no doubt he has moved to a different level.
He has scored 50 runs or more in more than half of his 17 Championship innings so far, the consistent theme of which has been his willingness, when the situation demands it, to be a patient accumulator. He remains a lovely batsman to watch, particularly when driving on the off, but he has become much more willing to bide his time, less inclined to follow his attacking instincts and nick off early. He has worked hard to eliminate vulnerabilities in his game and it is paying off handsomely.
As Yorkshire transferred operations to Scarborough, just along the coast from Lyth's home town of Whitby, he demonstrated again that he has acquired an ability to stick around even in difficult conditions, making a grafted 117 that acquired even more value as Middlesex fought back late in the day.
Lyth has half an eye on Cook's form
There were a few streaky moments, although nothing that constituted a chance until he had made 75, when he skewed a ball from Toby Roland-Jones that Eoin Morgan should have taken at gully. Lyth took in his moment of good fortune but then stomped away on to the adjoining pitch, swishing his bat angrily. He values his wicket highly now. He completed his hundred, too, with not his best shot, edging a ball from Steven Finn to the third man boundary for four.
There was plenty in this pitch, which had bounce and carry and a good covering of grass and the atmosphere remained humid after overnight rain. Had Middlesex bowled a little fuller in the morning session, the day might have unfolded differently.
As it was, their only success before lunch came when Roland-Jones produced a fine ball to remove Alex Lees, one that was pitched up and moved away late to take the edge as the batsman tried to defend.
Rain hastened an early interval, after which Finn, unlucky against Lees earlier, gained his reward when Kane Williamson, back with Yorkshire to resume in Aaron Finch's place as overseas player, was bowled by one that swung back.
It was after a second, longer stoppage in the afternoon, setting up a final session that would have extended to almost 45 overs but for bad light, that Middlesex began to gain rewards for deciding to bowl first, encouraging them to think that, notwithstanding Lyth's runs, they had done rather well.
Finn claimed a second success - his 42nd of the season - when Gale cut straight to Rogers at point for 30, then 20-year-old Tom Helm, preferred to James Harris as fourth seamer with the latter going back to Glamorgan on loan, ended a torrid 42-ball innings from Bairstow by bowling the deposed England wicketkeeper for 5.
With the ball doing plenty and batsmen perhaps struggling in the fading light, Roland-Jones bowled Jack Leaning with another full length ball before Helm made one bounce to end Lyth's wonderful knock - his first Championship hundred on the ground of his cricket upbringing - via a catch off the shoulder of the bat, taken at second slip.
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